Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Supporting investment in KETs

Supporting investment in KETs

The EU has made it a priority to ensure that key funding programmes offer specific support for projects related to Key Enabling Technologies (KETs). They are a priority for Horizon 2020, European Structural and Investment Funds, and the European Investment Bank. Reforms to state aid rules are also part of the strategy to increase the exploitation of KETs in industry and create a globally competitive manufacturing sector.

Smart Specialisation Platform for industrial modernisation

The European Commission has launched the Smart Specialisation Platform for industrial modernisation. This new initiative offers hands-on support to regions to foster interregional cooperation based on matching smart specialisation priorities related to industrial modernisation, such as Key Enabling Technologies, service innovation or resource efficiency. The aim of this initiative is to create an investment pipeline of mature projects in new growth areas across the EU, by providing tailored advice and helping regions establish links with the business and research communities. Particular support will be given to regions to combine different EU investment instruments, such as the European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds, COSME, Horizon2020 and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the heart of the Investment Plan.

Background information on the Smart Specialisation Platform

Horizon 2020

The Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies (LEIT) part of Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, includes:

  • a dedicated budget for projects related to KETs of almost EUR 6 billion
  • rebalancing of research, development, and innovation (RD&I) support towards closer-to-the-market projects (including pilot manufacturing lines and demonstrators)
  • priority for cross-cutting KETs projects (30% of the KETs budget)
  • industry-oriented selection criteria to increase participation along value chains (business and exploitation plans, commitment to first manufacturing, introduction of Technology Readiness Levels in topics, etc.)

The first Horizon 2020 work programme (2014-2015) provides funding for more than 20 KETs pilot lines in four areas of high industrial interest and innovation potential identified by the KETs High-level Group (high-performance production, embedded energy, smart structures, and industrial processes using renewable resources). These four areas were mentioned in the European Council Conclusions 20/21 March 2014 (232 kB) as KETs of high industrial interest that should be strengthened by identifying projects of European interest.

European Structural and Investment Funds

KETs are a priority for the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) (see Article 5 of the Regulation on the European Regional Development Fund and on specific provisions concerning the Investment for growth and jobs goal) and EUR 110 billion will be made available for innovation activities.

The Structural Funds can be used to finance KETs projects that are much closer to the market, even up to the first production stage of development.

Successful implementation depends on the take-up of funding by regions in their research and innovation smart specialisation strategies. Sixty percent of regions registered in the smart specialisation platform have already indicated a KETs-related priority, and cluster-specific actions are being promoted.

Combining Horizon 2020 and ESIF funds has now been made possible to allow combined public support for ambitious industrial KETs projects. A guide on synergies between ESIF and other EU instruments has been published.

Memorandum of Understanding with the European Investment Bank

KETs have been identified as a priority by the European Investment Bank (EIB). A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the European Commission and the EIB in February 2013 to improve access to finance KETs investments. Following the MoU, lending to KETs projects has increased by 60% (from EUR 2.7 billion in 2012 to EUR 4.4 billion in 2013).

State aid rules

New state aid rules allow EU countries to better support investments in KETs. The recently reformed guidelines for Research and Development and Innovation (R&D&I) and the revised General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) that declares certain categories of aid compatible with the internal market, help EU countries stimulate investments in KETs without negatively impacting competition.

As part of the modernisation of state aid rules, the Commission has adopted a new Communication setting out criteria under which EU countries can grant public support for the implementation of Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEIs). The Communication highlights the role of the IPCEI instrument in the European KETs strategy.